Sunday, July 6, 2014

Wimbledon: Djokovic Wins Five-Set Thriller Over Federer

"With seven Grand Slam titles to his name now, Djokovic moves alongside the likes of John McEnroe and Mats Wilander - 10 behind Federer at the top of the all-time list."
The Guardian:
Roger Federer, in the twilight of greatness, was hoping to outwit the new world number one, Novak Djokovic. He didn't miss by much, losing a five-set thriller 6-7, 6-4, 7-6, 5-7, 6-4. But he almost did it, he almost reclaimed the Wimbledon title and confounded those who can't understand why he chases the holy grail of another grand slam.

It would have been an eighth Wimbledon – his 18th grand slam, and he would have become the oldest singles champion at Wimbledon in the open era of tennis.

Now ranked number four, aged 32, and the father of two sets of twins, the Swiss master doesn't move as fluidly as he did. His drives don't always have the last word. His aura of invincibility – which required the rest to battle the man and his legend – left him some time ago. He chases with the pack he once led indisputably.

But he still has a sparkling array of shots, and he still has the most remarkable tennis brain. He has honed what already was a forensic serve, he cuts down on the number of long rallies. He seeks to curtail the attrition with a serve-and-volley game that conjures images of an era past. He has a bigger racquet engendering more power and fewer errors. He can only rue the passage of time and its consequences. But he has been willing to tinker, as he can and as he must, with everything else.

Against anyone but Djokovic, the 27-year-old Serb with almost mythical powers of resolve and recovery, it would probably have been enough. Federer began the match turbo-charged, pressuring Djokovic at the baseline and galloping to the net to cut off his returns. Djokovic seemed marginally stronger, but Federer took the set on a tie-break. Djokovic upped his game to take the second set 6-4 and then the third on a tie-break.

Djokovic powered his way to 5-2 in the fourth, and his victory appeared to be a formality. He moved to match point at 5-4. Federer blew it away with a 120-mile-per-hour ace. The older man flicked the switch to win four games in a row and won the set 7-5.

The crowd, including David and Victoria Beckham, shamelessly partisan, drunk on theatre, erupted into chants of "Roger, Roger!". Every Federer point was met with a wave of cheers. No animosity was towards Djokovic; instead a shared and vocal desperation to see Federer keep his mission on track; a collective wish to be part of history.

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge were as engrossed in the drama as everyone else. She placed her head in her hands as Federer double-faulted and lowered her head to her knees at match point. She reacted to one successful point by giving the former number one the thumbs up.

By the fifth set, the spectators had become integral to the show, cheering, imploring, oohing and aahing. Federer looked the fresher of the two; Djokovic crestfallen. For the second time in the match, he called for medical attention from the trainer to attend to his right knee.

At 3-3 Djokovic faced a perilous break point, but saved the game with a high-risk foray to the net and then won it.

Federer pushed and probed, Djokovic stood firm, both men delighting Centre Court with tenacity and athleticism and refusing to the last to offer certainty as to the result. Djokovic earned three break points on Federer's serve at 4-3. Federer swept them away. At 5-4, Djokovic gained another break point, match point. Federer slumped a forehand into the middle of the net. Over three hours and 56 minutes, the dream had come and gone.

His loss was tempered by support from the crowd and his young family. "I am disappointed not to have been rewarded with victory, but it was close. Novak deserved it at the end, but it was extremely close. Winning or losing, being in a Wimbledon final is always something special, especially when the match is as dramatic as today."

Because tennis is soap opera, Djokovic came to an extraordinary final with his own backstory. The new world number one – he began the match ranked second – has previously won seven grand slams, including Wimbledon in 2011. But he had lost his last three grand slam finals. Last year he added former Wimbledon champion Boris Becker to his entourage in an attempt to help him end that sequence, strategically and mentally. The wily German beamed courtside.

"This victory meant so much to me because it was against a great rival in terrific form on his court," said Djokovic, who, just like in 2011, ate a blade of grass immediately after winning the final point. "Also considering the fact I have lost three out of four Grand Slam finals. It was a huge test and a mental challenge. We were pushing each other to the limits. This one was extra special."

Later Djokovic elaborated on his victory: "This was the best quality Grand Slam final I have ever been part of. From the first point this was the best match. Roger played very well and showed why he is a champion and showed fighting spirit and composure in the important moments."

"I could have lost my concentration and handed him the win but I didn't and that is why this is very special to me mentally because I was fighting against him but also myself."

Referring to his celebratory meal of grass, he said: "There was as much grass as last time, so I ate some dirt too. But it was the best meal I ever tasted."

More information:
» The Guardian: "Noah Rubin offers US hope by winning boys’ title"

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